Georgia Coach Mark Richt and the Bulldogs have won 10 games in a row after… (David Goldman / Associated…)
Georgia's regular season may ultimately begin and end with lopsided defeats in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome, but Bulldogs fans can always cherish the 10 victories in between.
What happened to the home-state advantage?
Georgia is actually grateful to have earned the chance to lose again in Atlanta after opening the season with a humbling defeat to No. 5 Boise State.
Boy, if Georgia thought that 35-21 game at the Georgia Dome was tough….
Months later, Georgia returns with the unenviable task of staring down No.1 Louisiana State in Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game.
Defeat is fully expected as Georgia (10-2) is considered but a bump on LSU's road to destiny. LSU has such a big lead in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Tigers can probably lose to Georgia and still advance to the BCS title game.
What chance, these days, does the SEC East have against the West?
Last year, South Carolina won the East and got trashed by Auburn in Atlanta, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if Georgia endured a similar beatdown.
Before LSU's coronation, though, would it hurt to say a few kind words about the other division's representative?
With Georgia coming off a 6-7 season in 2010, the prevailing wisdom was Coach Mark Richt could probably not survive opening defeats against Boise State and South Carolina.
Yet, Georgia lost both games and Richt survived.
In fact, Richt's Bulldogs have won 10 straight games since a 45-42 defeat on Sept. 10 to South Carolina in Athens.
Granted, Georgia caught a huge break this year in missing the three powerhouses of the SEC West: LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.
There was still huge pressure on Georgia, however, and a thin margin of error after the 0-2 start. Any slip-up along the way might have prompted the slide that led to Richt's departure.
"It was a long, hard fight for us," Richt acknowledged this week.
Focus and perseverance were the keys.
"If something bad happens, you've just got to be able to shake it off and regroup and get back to work," Richt said. "If you let it get in your head, then you've got problems."
The pivot point was rallying from a 17-3 deficit against Florida on Oct. 29 in the annual "Cocktail Party" game in Jacksonville.
"I think from then on out, we were a team that felt, hey, no matter what goes on, we're going to keep fighting and win out," Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said.
OK, that's the end of the public service announcement.
Now, for the reality check.
Georgia, it is true, has the experience of already playing in the Georgia Dome this season. The bulldogs think they have matured since that September loss to Boise.
"I think it was good to get it out of the way, get those jitters out," Murray said. "I think we'll be able to handle it a little bit better this time."
Murray, a sophomore, has emerged into a top-flight SEC quarterback this year, with 32 touchdown passes and 2,698 yards.
Georgia is hoping to get some running help from freshman Isaiah Crowell, who sat out last week's win over Georgia Tech with an ankle injury.
But nothing short of a scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens can prepare you for LSU's defense, led by cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Mo Claiborne.
Tigers opponents average only 248 yards and 10.6 points per game. LSU comes at you in waves, on offense and defense. Like Noah's Ark, they seem to have two of everything.
"They have a lot of speed," Murray said. "You think of SEC defenses, you think of speed, and they have a whole other speed on top of that."
And no team is going to top LSU in big-game experience. The Tigers opened the season with a win over Oregon in Arlington, Texas, defeated West Virginia in Morgantown and outlasted Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
"We're used to playing in that environment," LSU Coach Les Miles said. "We're used to being on the big stage. I think our guys translate the glare of lights to making plays in the game."